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The Corner

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The Art of a Demagogue



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Barack Obama just spoke to the National Council of La Raza. Aside from the fact that he was not bothered by the group’s reactionary racialist brand (imagine media reaction to a “National Council of the Race”), the president was in top demagogic form with his usual rants about the old anonymous bogeymen “they”:

Let’s be honest, I need a dance partner here, and the floor is empty . . . I need you to keep building a movement for change outside of Washington, one they can’t stop, one that’s greater than this community . . . Feel free to keep the heat on me and the heat on Democrats. But here’s the thing you should know, the Democrats and your president are with you, don’t get confused about that.

Of course, there is nothing to be confused about: When the president entered office, he enjoyed a supermajority in the House and a veto-proof Senate, and could have passed on a strict party-line vote any imaginable immigration bill he had wished, in the manner that he rammed down Obamacare. The truth was that he needed no “dance partner” then, and he knows that perfectly well now.

But no matter: the crowd was pleased. So it chanted the same old mantra, “Yes, we can”— in the same manner that his “alligators and moats” and fantasies about the border fence being “basically complete” not long ago were a hit with a similarly uninformed audience that hissed “They’re racist” on cue between the president’s studied pauses.

It is now a given that anytime Obama speaks to a race/class/gender special interest group, we will suffer his usual four-step demagoguery: a) mythology presented as history; b) the anonymous straw men “they” and “them” who do terrible things; c) the usual throat-clearing qualifier that he is being clear, or being honest or making no mistake about it — as he proceeds to be dishonest; d) and the president-as-cheerleader whipping up a chanting audience. He would make Cleon proud.



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